Islamic State group militants have reportedly kidnapped 120 schoolchildren in the Iraqi city of Mosul, where Iraqi forces, along with Kurdish fighters are engaged in a desperate battle against the Islamists.
The Times of Israel quoted Iraqi sources as saying that children aged between 12 and 15 were forcibly taken away from their classrooms and loaded onto military vehicles by ISIS members.
Local reports suggest that the children will now be made part of the Islamist organization and trained as fighters, while those belonging to wealthy families will be released after ransom is paid to the militants.
Mosul has remained a stronghold of the Islamist group. The city was captured by the militants in June 2014 after they beat back Iraqi government forces. Following this, an international coalition led by the U.S., Canada and European nations has been involved in backing a Kurdish campaign against ISis.
Recently, U.S. air strikes targeted ISIS positions in the southern city of Tikrit, and the Iraqi army and Shia militia fighters are pushing north towards Mosul.
Kurdish fighters, who have reached the borders of Mosul are reportedly making coordinated efforts to enter the Sunni Arab-majority city.
On 2 April, IBTimes UK quoted foreign minister of Iraqi Kurdistan Falah Mustafa as saying: "Mosul is key to defeating [ISIS] in Iraq as a whole, which is why the front line is there. There have been clashes -- they have attacked, we have attacked. The issue is that ... it has to be an Iraqi attempt that has to be coordinated with the Iraqi army, the Sunni community, peshmerga support and the U.S. and the coalition."